Moving swiftly on, darlings (I've shown yesterday's effort to Wink, who is laughing like a drain) ... I was talking to Weeza the other day about her childhood Christmases. I may well have written about this before, she and I have discussed it, but I'm not sure and I trust you'll either have forgotten or will kindly put repetition down to my old age.
I haven't always been as laid back about Christmas preparations, as I am now. When my children were small, we started before December with the making of the Advent calendars. Then we made tree decorations during December. Our house (we moved here when Ro was two, or rather the day before his second birthday) had high ceilings and a big hall and we had a tree that went in the stairwell and could be as tall as the banisters on the landing, so it could take any number of decorations. At that time, we didn't have much spare money and so the Sage and I made a lot of the children's presents too. And then I did a whole lot of baking and so on, made cakes and puddings - went to loads of effort.
For the day itself, I made lists of what was to be done. And - I'm getting to the point, darlings, there is one - I scheduled in to my time plan several breaks to stop work and join the family.
When I was a child, you see, my mother worked for hours in the kitchen to prepare the Christmas meal. My sister and I had opened our stockings when we first woke up, and then that was it. No present opening until after lunch. You can see why I'm so good at deferring gratification. I learned early. But in fact, never mind the presents, what I really wanted was all of us to be together, not to sit around quite bored for hours before a meal I wasn't too bothered about - and, after the presents were opened, my mother disappeared again to clear away, and was gone for hours. No question of us all piling into the kitchen and sorting it out, I suspect she actually didn't enjoy the whole occasion much and preferred to be on her own, leaving Wink and me with the old ladies she invited round for the day.
Anyway, I always looked forward to Christmas and never learned from experience that it was going to be slightly disappointing. So things would be different with my children, I resolved. I scheduled in these breaks, when I downed kitchen tools and spent half an hour at a time with them and let them open some presents.
Oh, another word here. The family would rock along sometime about noon and wanted us all to open presents together. So I had to compromise, just a couple of parcels at a time so the bulk were still there when my mum, stepdad and sister arrived. And then it was champagne at noon and presents were opened, never mind what needed to be done in the kitchen.
I thought it had been quite a good compromise, but Weeza's memory is of frustration at not being allowed to dive in and rip paper. Not so different from mine then but, as I pointed out, with much less cause.
There was one matter where my careful planning worked out though. I started buying early and amassed several items for each of them. There were no uncles, aunts or cousins, we didn't greatly get into the way of exchanging presents with friends because no one had much spare money for them, so I made sure there was a good pile of parcels under the tree anyway. When I'd got them all together, I spent a lot of time equalling them out. I made sure that the number was equal, so was the cost and even the approximate size. This was never remarked on, so I thought it was just me who knew - I don't think I even mentioned it to the Sage, it was just what I did to be fair. But Weeza says now that she and Al always compared. Devious little brats.